September 11, 2010

Independence Days Challenge: What It's Meant To Me

Well, I think this is going to be my last  Independence Days Challenge post. While it's been a fun and useful exercise, these days I feel that my updates are too rote. I could almost copy from one week and paste to the next. I don't need to be doing things as time or blog fillers. I choose to do things because they help me in obtaining my goals, and I blog about them because I want a record of them and think they will be of interest to like-minded readers.

Will I do it again next year? Probably not. But it has helped me in my efforts to develop a garden record keeping system. Last year I tried a garden journal. It's still online here, but was abandoned as too time consuming, plus I wasn't entirely satisfied with the way the information was organized. Now I'm thinking that garden records could be recorded with my monthly garden updates.  I'll have to give that a try and see how it goes.

Would I recommend the Independence Days Challenge to others? Absolutely. The biggest participation obstacle seems to be in thinking everything has to be accomplished every week. That isn't what's encouraged however. The idea is to do at least one thing every day, or every week. It's amazing how quickly the little things add up. And it's encouraging to see them recorded in a format such as this.

The categories that were most useful to me were the plant, harvest, and preserve something. It's nice to keep track of when I did these things one year, so that I can better plan for the next. Other categories however, waste not and want not for example, are a lifestyle for me, and I just don't think about them, let alone have the time to write it all out every week. Copying it again and again isn't useful to me. I did enjoy reading others lists however, and got some good ideas.

Building community food systems was something I'd never thought about though. Not that I haven't appreciated the local buying trend, but I never really thought about its whys and wherefores. Nor it's implications. As I read what others wrote for this category, their updates seemed to cover mostly teaching, offering workshops, and such. I wasn't doing any of that, just blogging about it. I visited foodie blogs with long discussions about buying locally and seasonally. I read everyone else's 2¢ and put in my own, but it wasn't until I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that the whole concept came together for me. I have read similar content elsewhere, but that book really brought home the reasons why.

One obvious problem with a global food system is that it's not energy efficient.  It takes fuel to transport all that food.  And, as the cost of transportation goes up (obviously directly related to the price of oil), so does the price of food. Buying locally addresses those concerns. It also supports our local economies, as well as local food producers, who are gradually being squeezed out by agribiz. Local food production also offers a food supply safety net, in case of crop failures elsewhere. I realized that I can help build community food systems simply by buying from local food producers.

Eat the food seems like a no-brainer. Yet I understand that this addresses certain problems with food storage. For example, keeping track of what one has, keeping it rotated so the oldest gets used first, and addressing the tendency to hoard. Hoarding is storing but refusing to use. I think it probably stems from either insecurity or greed. The whole point of food storage for a self-sustaining lifestyle however, is to eat what is produced, always having enough for year round consumption. I confess that I have a tendency to hoard out of insecurity, so this helps me address that. As a weekly challenge category, it too became rote for me, though it did help me analyze our food usage and goals, (those here and here). That was useful. It's also a good place to pick up a few new recipes on other peoples' updates.

All that said, here's what I've been doing for the past couple of weeks:

1.  Plant Something
  • cabbage plants
2.  Harvest Something
  • green beans 
  • okra
  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • cantaloupes
  • watermelon
  • eggs
  • milk
  • Swiss chard
  • black turtle beans
  • buttercup squash
  • watermelon
  • elderberries (just a few)
  • dill seed
  • rosemary
  • oregano
  • sweet basil
  • catnip
  • thyme
  • sweet peppers
  • pumpkin
  • sunflower seeds
3.  Preserve Something
  • made and canned cucumber relish
  • canned green beans
  • froze okra
  • dehydrated tomatoes
  • froze eggs
  • canned Swiss chard
  • froze cantaloupe
  • dehydrated cantaloupe
  • drying herbs
  • made & canned sweet pickles
4.  Waste Not
  • Same 'ol, same 'ol 
5.  Want Not
  • Food preservation
  • Herb drying
  • Seed saving
  • Planning for my winter bulk food order (mostly grains)
  • Buying canning supplies as they go on clearance
  • Picking up an extra can or two of things we like such as black olives, tuna fish, or mushrooms.
6.  Build Community Food Systems
  • Found an area food co-op.  Will visit soon and hopefully join.
  • Blogging about it
  • Tweeting about my blog posts
7.  Eat the Food
  • All our own fruits and veggies
  • Am holding off on preserved foods until after the summer garden is done. 
  • Eating our potatoes 
  • Eating our eggs 
  • Eating our chicken about once a week
And we're not the only ones eating the food!

Riley begged to see what I had after I finished some cantaloupe, so I gave it to him. I thought he would give it a sniff and walk away, but he started licking.

And licking.

Katy didn't get it.

Yes, he was actually taking bites and eating it.

I'm not sure when the challenge is officially over. I could continue it with fall and winter gardening, but will just address the information in my monthly garden updates and random blog posts.

© September 2010 by Leigh at


Tina T-P said...

Neelix loved cantaloupe and would beg for bites.

Do you know of any way to identify a particular bean? Our minister gave The Shepherd some beans last spring and he planted them - I think they are brown with dark brown spirals on them... I'll have to take a picture and put them on my blog - bean of mystery...Ha, ha. T.

Life Looms Large said...

This series of blog posts has been helpful to me, getting me to start thinking more about what I'm up to food-wise and garden-wise. So thanks for having it!

I'm all for dropping things when you're done with them and moving on to what works for good job for realizing it's time. I could improve at that skill!


Woolly Bits said...

I used to do all kinds of lists, daily weather, gardening, chores etc. but I stopped that when I realized that it takes up time that I could use for other, more important things. same with the computer - it can be a great help, but also a total timewaster. I confess to using some things (e.g. ravelry) where it suits me, but don't support them wholeheartedly, because they can be such timewasters (I don't see the point in noting which yarns and needles I own:)) same for things that concern food etc. I do like to look for a recipe here and there, but I fail to see the point in putting every recipe I've ever used (or owned:)) into a computer file. life is short as it is! I do however think that you underestimate your own efforts in writing about what you do - you did build a sort of community online - for those of us who read your blog, take some things as useful, might discard others as not suitable personally - and learn things we didn't know before. even if it's only a window into life in another country or other ways of doing things - I certainly learned a lot from your blog posts (if only how to freeze eggs:)) - so a big thank you for your interesting and entertaining blog entries!

Mama Pea said...

I agree with Woolly Bits right down the line. Perhaps the basic, bottom line, best thing the "Independence Days Challenge" does is to make one dig deep inside and think . . . ? If so, what a success! So often we plod along in our little rut (albeit working hard) without taking the time to realize there might be a better way.

Mr. H. said...

I have truly enjoyed seeing all that you have accomplished in this challenge and have no doubt that these posts of yours have been quite an inspiration to excellent exercise in sustainability.

maggie said...

Just yesterday Luna stole a whole, just-ripe cantaloupe out of my garden. There's something a little disturbing about finding the remains of a cantaloupe with giant canine tooth holes in it.

I have enjoyed your IDC updates, but understand how it could become tedious. I have been inspired by the sheer productivity of both you and your little piece of land. But I'll be inspired by that regardless of how you report on it. Onward!

Leigh said...

Tina, I never knew that cats could like cantaloupe! So glad to learn that Riley isn't totally weird.

The only thing I would know to do to identify an unidentified bean, is to look through seed catalogues! Probably not the fastest way, and there's always the danger of a buying impulse. :)

Sue, I appreciate that. I think that was Sharon Astyk's point in the first place, to begin to think about what we eat and where it comes from.

Bettina, what an encouragement! I totally agree with you about some of the specialty networking sites, so I sign up and then do nothing with them. Sometimes I think the computer is altogether too time consuming, but I do love to write, read, and research. I agree about peeking into windows of others' worlds. A wonderful way to make new friends and learn new things.

Well put Mama Pea. Even though my lists got repetitive, it really helped to see that I actually am making progress. The routine things often get forgotten in the overall scheme of things.

Mr. H, thank you! I agree, the IDC is an excellent exercise in sustainability. That's why I would definitely encourage others to participate.

Maggie that is so funny. Dogs like cantaloupe too! I never knew.

I have found some of the record keeping very useful and plan to incorporate it into other posts. Hopefully I'm developing some good habits here!

The Bunny Girl said...

We used to have a cat that ate strawberries and cantalope. We couldn't leave them out cause they would be eaten or smashed on the floor and then eaten. Now we have a kitty that eats lettuce. :P Silly Kitty!!!

katrien said...

I had the same reason for stopping with Independence Days - and failing to keep up with it in the first place. It was fun and helpful in the beginning because the did-this did-that lines could be the starting point for other comments and musings on the virtues of, say, garlic, etc. But soon it became just a list, and repetitive. The listing was still helpful, but (I suspected) boring for the readers. I have a little black book in which I note my harvests and plantings. That's enough for me.

Flower said...

Your cat eating the melon is funny..and our Maggie (pom, dog) eats watermelon.
I've enjoyed your blog series but understand that enough is enough. You have done a great job!! It has been appreciated.

Leigh said...

Bunny Girl, if my kitties start eating strawberries I'm really in trouble because my bed is where they could help themselves! Thanks so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.

Katrien, I agree and have found the comments to be invaluable. In the end though, a record keeping system has to be useful to the user. I'm going to incorporate some of it in my monthly garden posts and see if that doesn't help me. I have several notebooks and calendars but am ashamed to confess that I am prone to misplace them! :o

Flower, watermelon? LOL I'm learning some really fun things from my readers. Maybe enough folks will be interested to join the challenge themselves.

Sharon said...

Okay, you mess me up when you show the kitten pictures. Everything else goes out the window and I keeping going over them and chuckling. I tell Theresa it's like when she shows pictures of Stella. What? What were you saying???

We're lucky to harvest anything at all. I took tomato sandwiches to our guild potluck Saturday. I didn't know they existed until you told me! I'm like the only one who has gotten any red tomatoes this summer since we ended up a summer month short in this growing season.

Leigh said...

Sharon, I'm the same way, LOL. I love Stella photos. It's funny because I like dogs, but they've never had that "aw" factor for me. Stella does.

Just the mention of tomato sandwiches makes my mouth water. My tomatoes (though plentiful) didn't due well, with bad spots on the inside. Salvageable for canning, but not good for sandwiches :(

Blue bird said...

Leigh you are a most creative person I met lately! You do so many things and let you know: you are very inspiring!
The fance fixing is going to be a lot more fun, than it would be without your blog! Thanks for the help!